Episode Review of Stargate SG-1 Season 9: "Ex Deus Machina"

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Episode Information

Title: "Ex Deus Machina"
Written by: Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie
Director: Martin Wood
Rating (out of 4 stars): **1/2
Reviewed on: September 12, 2007

Synopsis from GateWorld


In this episode the Goa'uld/Trust raises its head again, and Gerak begins meddling in Earth affairs.

The SGC comes upon information that suggests that Baal is in hiding on Earth. He disappeared at the end of last season's "Reckoning, Part 2", but no one really knew what he was up to. Obviously, the SGC wants to find him. However, Gerak somehow received this intelligence first and has sent a team of Jaffa to Earth to capture Baal. If he is successful, it would give him additional popularity and support among the Jaffa.

SG-1 deduces that Baal has been using the Goa'uld-controlled Trust organization to operate on Earth. They have some leads that cause them to investigate a defense contracting company, but the company is stonewalling them. We discover that Baal is secretly controlling the company. Gerak's Jaffa covertly attack the company, but are unsuccessful in capturing Baal.

At this point, Baal reveals himself to the SGC via a video message. He says he just wants to live freely on Earth. To ensure his freedom, he has placed a naquaadah bomb somewhere in the US. He claims that if he is attacked again (by humans or Jaffa), he will detonate the bomb.

The SGC teams up with the NID (led by Agent Barrett) to track down Baal. They soon receiving conflicting reports that seem to indicate Baal is in more than one location at once. Publicly, Baal (posing as a human) stages a corporate takeover, thus increasing his financial power and prestige, plus making him a public figure, which gives him a bit of protection.

Teal'c tries to detract from Gerak's growing power by revealing to the Jaffa High Council that Gerak has been conducting missions on Earth without either Earth's permission or the Council's knowledge. To Teal'c's shock, the Council was aware of Gerak's actions, but did not inform Teal'c because of his allegiance to the Tau'ri.

The SGC plan to attack Baal's compound with symbiote poison, but Baal's Trust operatives intercept communications regarding this attack. Baal informs the SGC that a prominent skyscraper in Seattle will explode shortly due to a naquaadah bomb. Carter tries to locate the bomb, but eventually realizes that the naquaadah is incorporated into the structure of the brand-new building: the building itself is a bomb. The Prometheus beams the whole skyscraper into space, where it explodes.

The attack on Baal's compound is a failure, since he was not found after the attack. Teal'c goes to the Jaffa High Council to tell them Gerak's meddling caused the failure, but Gerak produces a captive Baal. Baal is summarily executed before the High Council. When Teal'c returns to Earth, we are informed that cloning technology was found in Baal's compound; most likely there is at least one clone of Baal, and that's who was executed. In the final scene of the episode, we watch a room full of Baal clones watch a news story about the Seattle bombing... a bizarre ending, to say the least.

This episode had a lot of interesting stuff in it, but somehow the episode as a whole didn't gel very well with me, thus it's somewhat low rating.

The question of the whereabouts of the remaining Goa'uld is a good one. Baal seems to be working somewhat in the background on Earth, building up his resources and power slowly. I suppose that if you're thousands of years old, you can have a little patience to do that and wait for an opportunity. It's a wonderful ironic twist that the SGC's past actions have virtually eliminated the galactic Goa'uld threat, but have also brought that threat home to Earth, where it is in many ways harder to deal with.

I have always thought Baal was one of the cannier (and better dressing) Goa'uld, and we see that he has mastered Earth's financial systems in less than a year and is already is a position of some power. Of course, he got a jump start by using Trust resources. I also have to give the actor and show some credit: even with Baal dressed in a normal suit and tie, there's still something about him that looks slightly off and alien. And he certainly has a level of arrogance that can't be hidden with any suit!

Gerak is proving to be an astute, if unsavory, politician. I still haven't figured out completely what his motivations are. He obviously wants power within the Jaffa nation. He's also extremely paranoid - his relationship with Earth has been very shaky, and in this episode, we see him trying to undermine any Jaffa relationship with the Tok'ra. Does he really see this paranoid approach as being good for the Jaffa, or is he just being paranoid? One might think he would see Earth's rapid rise to galactic power as worthy of emulation, and Earth did that by fostering relationships among allies.

In this episode, Gerak is always one step ahead of Teal'c's political actions among the Jaffa and the SGC's efforts on Earth. He clearly has no qualms sending an unauthorized team of soldiers to the homeworld of an ally, another indication of his lack of respect for Earth. (Of course, the Jaffa attacks on Earth led to the wonderful scene where a Jaffa bursts into a group of cubicles and demanding of the one guy playing Solitaire after hours, "Where is the false god Baal?" Ha!) Will the other Jaffa leaders continue to follow Gerak on this isolationist path?

We also see that Gerak does not believe in any restrictions on his actions on Dakara (just as he didn't ask permission to operate on Earth). He orders the torture of a Goa'uld/Trust member using a Goa'uld pain stick. It's not clear that he actually did any torturing himself, but he doesn't shrink from the idea, even though other Jaffa are uncomfortable with it, since they think it is too similar to what the Goa'uld did to them.

In the end of the episode, we find out that Baal has cloned himself. We see many clones that look like Baal's human host. Is that all that was cloned? Did Baal also clone his symbiote? Several times we see Baal's eyes glow, but they could have all been the "real" Baal. Was the real Baal executed on Dakara? The Baal at the end of the episode (in the room of Baals) seems to be in command, so maybe he's the real one. It's surprising that Baal would be willing to share his power, even with "himself". The clones also make the SGC's job much harder...how many of them are there to find?

Beaming away the skyscraper to keep it from hurting anyone when it exploded was pretty neat: who knew the Prometheus could beam something that large? Some questions should come up about it, though. Did anyone see the beaming? Only a five block radius had been evacuated. How was enough rubble made to represent the exploded building? I think I recall the news story mentioning there were questions about this. Also, when the building was beamed out, presumably all the air inside it went with it, which would leave a sizable vacuum in Seattle. The air rushing in to fill that vacuum would have produced considerable winds and even thunderous noise. That would have been cool to see.

One of the reasons why I didn't like this episode quite as much as others is because the SG-1 members were pretty invisible and often interchangeable (with some exceptions). Daniel and Mitchell did very little that was specific to their expertise; Daniel being used in a car in a stake out almost seemed silly. Mitchell at least got to barge into Jaffa High Council meetings where he wasn't wanted. Carter did resume her job of interfacing with the NID (and we found out that's she's not exactly single), but only her realization that the naquaadah bomb was part of the building really seemed significant. Teal'c did get a lot of air time - too bad he was so thoroughly trounced by Gerak in Jaffa politics.

Where do we go from here? There are some number of Baals cruising around on Earth, while the Ori presumably haven't given up on their campaign of domination. The SGC is soon going to have to do something about Gerak's attitude, or else break off relations with the Jaffa.

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